Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021


Prime Minister, Religious Discrimination Bill 2021

5:55 pm

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

In October 2018, the Prime Minister was asked what his message was for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse students who faced being expelled from school simply for being themselves. The Prime Minister said, 'Their PM understands and is going to take action to fix it.' Yet, three years in, that very Prime Minister today introduced legislation that is actually going to entrench the ability of schools to expel LGBTIQA+ students and to sack LGBTIQA+ teachers. This is yet another example of the Prime Minister failing the Australian public: promising one thing and delivering the exact opposite.

In question time today the Attorney-General denied that this was the case, but the reality is different. As legal experts outlined in an article in the Conversation this morning, a religious school that teaches that gay and lesbian couples should not be able to marry or have children would, under this legislation, then be able to discriminate against any staff or students who do not adhere to this belief. Under the statement-of-belief clause in the legislation introduced today, schools will be largely free to tell trans students that their gender identity is against the laws of God or to tell lesbian parents that they are evil for depriving their child of a father. And this legislation will override state and territory legislation that, at the moment, would outlaw such offensive speech.

The Prime Minister, who, in 2018, said he was going to fix it, introduced this discriminatory legislation, this Trojan Horse of hate, into the House himself this morning. This is the result of him working to deliver for his right-wing, fundamentalist friends—rather than working to end discrimination, which is what he promised to do in 2018. A child who started high school in 2018 is going to graduate before the promised review of the Australian Law Reform Commission into discrimination in schools reports in 2023. Meanwhile, we've got the religious discrimination legislation being rushed through. Meanwhile, in the Senate today, we had an attempt by this government to set up an inquiry that was going to report at the end of January, which would have meant that any hearings as part of this inquiry would be held over the January holiday period, absolutely reducing the potential of people to be engaged in this important review of this legislation.

This legislation is going to allow anyone to misgender their colleagues, to refer to trans women as 'male', on the basis that that's their religious belief. When I put this to the Attorney-General in question time today, she said, 'Oh, no—it wouldn't be legal if it was malicious.' Yet there is a note in the legislation that specifically says, 'A moderately expressed religious view that does not incite hatred or violence would not constitute vilification,' which means that the Attorney-General was wrong today. Misgendering people or telling people that their lesbian sporting mates' relationships are evil and that they will pray for them to find husbands—as long as they are being expressed in a moderate way, in 'a moderately expressed religious view'—would be completely legal. Telling a disabled person that their disability is a punishment from God would be legal. Telling a single mother that they are doing the work of the devil for denying their child a father would be legal.

The Prime Minister is trumpeting this legislation to deliver on his promises to his far-right-wing mates and to engage in culture wars, to distract us from the fact that he has done absolutely nothing to help struggling Australians who have been living through two years of pandemic. He has done absolutely nothing to support people who are out of work and people doing it tough, struggling to get by on totally inadequate income support—let alone done nothing to address our climate crisis.

The Greens will be opposing this discriminatory legislation, this Trojan Horse of hate. We support protecting people of faith from being discriminated against, but this bill does much more than that. This bill is increasing discrimination. (Time expired)

Senate adjourned at 18 : 00